Promising Practice

Developing a national barometer of prejudice and discrimination in Britain

The British Equality and Human Rights Commission has conducted a representative survey that measures discrimination experiences of groups with protected characteristics and explores attitudes of the general public towards discrimination and equality issues in Britain. The results of the survey were first published in a report on 11 October 2018.
United Kingdom
Institutional and structural guidelines
Facilitate effective use
Operational guidelines
Ensure comprehensiveness
Ensure representativeness
Improve comparability
Mainstream intersectional approach
Gender identity or expression
Racial or ethnic origin
Religion or belief
Sexual orientation
All grounds / Cross-cutting
Includes multiple / intersectional discrimination


In this page:

Why was the practice needed?

Previous research, as part of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)’s programme on prejudice and unlawful behaviour, identified a lack of regular, comparable and systematic data collection on prejudice and discrimination in Britain. The review revealed that current evidence does not allow meaningful comparisons across protected characteristics or make it possible to comment on the rate of changes in the nature and extent of prejudice and discrimination.

The objectives of the survey are to address the lack of comparable and systematic data collection on prejudice and discrimination in Britain. It also aims at designing and testing a model which could be developed to form a national barometer of prejudice and discrimination in Britain. The data from the survey should inform evidence-based approaches to tackling discrimination.

How was it implemented?

The survey measures prejudice and discrimination in Britain experienced by people with a wide range of protected characteristics: age, disability, race, sex, religion or belief, sexual orientation, pregnancy and maternity, and gender reassignment across various areas of life. It was not possible to include all protected characteristic groups in the survey due the limited number of questions in the survey.

There was a process of internal consultation and prioritisation to identify which groups to focus on for this initial survey. The survey collected data from 2,853 people in Britain. This included boost samples in Wales and Scotland, and of those sharing specific protected characteristics.

The survey collected data using the random probability NatCen and ScotCen Panels (which use a sequential online and Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing (CATI) data collection approach) in combination with the non-probability PopulusLive Panel (which uses online data collection).

Going beyond experiences of discrimination, the survey gauges the attitudes of the general public towards people with protected characteristics, and on discrimination and equality in general.

The survey was distributed in England, Scotland and Wales. The survey report is the first national evidence since 2006 to evaluate prejudice and discrimination in Britain across a large set of protected characteristics using a consistent set of measures.

An important feature of the survey report is its comparison of people’s perceptions of discrimination in Britain in relation to different protected characteristics to personal experiences of discrimination. For example, we are able to compare the proportion of people that felt that age-based prejudice is a serious issue in Britain today, with the proportion of people that reported experiencing prejudice based on their age.

This can highlight where the prevalence of different forms of prejudice in society are underestimated. The report identifies a set of measures that can be repeated regularly to create a consistent evidence base on the form and prevalence of prejudice and discrimination in Britain.

While the report does not apply an intersectional analysis, the survey design would allow for analysis of the protected characteristics of respondents, including intersectional analysis.


  • The output is the survey report, released in October 2018. The report identifies five important ways that a national barometer of prejudice and discrimination based on the survey can be used, namely:
  1. to provide a benchmark for comparison over time, enabling monitoring of changes in experience and attitudes;
  2. to provide a more nuanced picture of the situation of members of a particular protected characteristic;
  3. to enable comparisons between different protected characteristics that can highlight where particularly distinctive risk factors may be occurring;
  4. to identify areas in which general interventions (and change) may be desirable to affect all protected characteristics;
  5. to identify areas where more targeted or specific interventions would be more appropriate to address particular features of prejudice or discrimination or issues that are unique to particular protected characteristics.
  • The EHRC’s ‘Is Britain Fairer?’ 2018 report (see also in this compendium) complements this survey report. It provides a comprehensive review of how Britain is performing on equality and human rights across all areas of life, including education, work, living standards, health, justice and security, and participation in society by referring to various data sources.

Key success factors

  • Delivery of a nationally representative and comparative picture of people’s experiences of prejudice and people’s attitudes across a wide range of protected characteristic groups and nations.
  • Successful pilot of a set of questions that, if developed further, could form a model for a national barometer of prejudice and discrimination in Britain.

Technical information

  • Data sources covered: Household or individual surveys; Victimisation surveys; Attitudinal surveys.
  • Areas of life covered: Employment; Education; Health; Social Protection; Housing and living conditions; Access to good and services.
  • Target audience: Policymakers, research funding bodies, and the research and academic community
  • Duration: Running in the 2017/18 financial year
  • Geographical scope: National (Great Britain: England, Scotland, and Wales)
  • Leading institution: Equality and Human Rights Commission
  • Other organisations involved/consulted: National Centre for Social Research, University of Kent, Birkbeck University of London, and the UK Government Equalities Office
  • Financial & human resources: Budget: No information provided; Source of the budget: Equality and Human Rights Commission; Staff: 0.5 Full Time Equivalent (FTE)


Equality and Human Rights Commission

Email: correspondence (at) equalityhumanrights (dot) com